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McCormack steps up bid with double Belgian raid

 

By Sammy Hamill

The Ypres Rally in Belgium effectively de-railed Marty McCormack's challenge for the 2017 British Championship.

Having performed impressively there in the past, the Draperstown driver saw it as one of his banker events, but it proved a futile and expensive trip when he crashed his R5 Skoda Fabia on the first stage, leaving it needing an extensive re-build.

Now, after a strong start to this year's series, McCormack is stepping up his preparation for another Ypres visit later in the month by heading for Belgium this weekend for the Rally van Wervik which is based in the same Flanders region.

McCormack will be joined by two other major contenders for the British title with Keith Cronin and Scot David Bogie also in the hunt.

Cronin, the four-time champion from Cork, heads there on the back of his Circuit of Munster victory on Sunday, which was his first outing in the new R5 Hyundai i20 he will use for the rest of the British series.

He used Eugene Donnelly's i20 to finish third on the first round, the Pirelli International, while he waited for Hyundai Customer Racing to supply the latest version of the car.

Former British champion Bogie crashed out of the Pirelli event but has since won the Scottish Rally and is setting his sights on getting back in the BRC chase by taking on not just the Wervik Rally, but also next month's Carryduff Forklift Down Rally, which he sees as a perfect warm-up for the Ulster International in August.

McCormack, who is fourth in the championship standings, may also take in the July 21 Down Rally, which for the first time is part of the Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship.

Run jointly by the Rathfriland and Ballynahinch clubs, it has already attracted a capacity entry list, nearly 100 drivers signing up within 48 hours of the regulations being published.

As well as McCormack and Bogie, Desi Henry will be in action too, along with several of the top Protyre Championship contenders from the UK such as Jason Pritchard, Damian Cole and Melvyn Evans.

Meanwhile, the McGrady Insurance NI Championship continues on Saturday with round three, the Newry-based Mourne Rally.

The line-up includes seven-times champion - and leader again this year - Derek McGarrity in a WRC Ford Fiesta.

Elsewhere, Citroen have confirmed they will seek talks with Sebastien Ogier about replacing Kris Meeke in 2019.

Following Meeke's shock sacking, the French team are expected to continue with Craig Breen and Mads Ostberg for the rest of this season, starting in Sardinia this weekend, but World champion Ogier is on their radar.

"In our situation we are going to consider all of the opportunities to have a new driver," said team principal Pierre Budar.

"If Ogier is on the market and Ogier can be interested by Citroen then, of course, I would be interested in Sebastien Ogier. That's for sure."

Meeke has maintained his silence since the decision to axe him for having too many accidents, his only comment coming on Instagram with the cryptic message: "Born a Meeke... we were always prepared to put it on the line. The sun will rise again tomorrow..."

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